LOTR 3: Celeb Amaurea: Silver Dawn

E Tálo Ilya Nad: The End of All Things

"Celeb Amaurea" (Silver Dawn)

Chapter Five

"E Tálo Ilya Nad" (The End of All Things)

Mary held her back as she finally made it to her feet, and she looked out along the grass as her three children ran laughing across it in a game of tag. A little girl, barely four years old, chased after her older twin brothers with a permanent smile on her face, giggling as they twisted and danced away from her, her dark hair bouncing on her shoulders. The two boys laughed and teased her, both running in opposite directions in a wide circle so that she didn't know where to go. One of them wore on his golden brown hair a crown of twisted vines and leaves, which he had made, while his brother had made for himself a belt of vines and had in it a stick for a sword. Mary chuckled as she watched them, rubbing her large belly absently with one hand.

"Alright." She finally called. "Laiqualassien, Galasrinion, time to go in. Laerwen, come with your brothers."

"But Nana!" Both boys moaned, turning their large blue eyes on her.

"It's time for supper. Come on."

Laiqualassien blew out a disappointed breath, then turned and walked towards his little sister. "Come on, Laerwen." He said, grunting as he picked her up, his arms wrapped around her waist. "Let's go."

Galasrinion heaved a sigh with slumped shoulders, and hanging his arms and his head he began to walk, dragging his feet, back to the blanket where Mary had been sitting.

"Ada?"

"Yes, Laerwen." Laiqualassien said, his face turning red as he carried her, trying not to drop his sister as she swung her feet. His leafy crown tipped sideways. "Ada will be there."

Galasrinion finally reached the blanket, and he looked up with woeful eyes, which were more grey than his brother's. "Nana, do we have to go in?"

"Yes." Mary said, holding her belly. "Could you carry the blanket, please?"

He sighed. "Yes, Nana." He said, and bent down and grabbed the edges and pulled it all into an untidy bundle and held it against him, his little arms wrapped tightly around it and his eyes peering over the top.

"Nana! Laerwen keeps kicking me!"

"She's just swinging her feet, Laiqualassien." Mary said, holding out her hand. "Here, set her down. Hold my hand, Laerwen." The little girl looked up at her with dark eyes that squinted as she grinned, and Mary smiled back. "Ready to eat?"

Laerwen nodded. "Uh huh."

"Alright. Up we go."

It seemed that every day the slope up to the white stone house got longer and harder, but then Mary thought, it was probably just because she kept getting bigger and slower. By the time they reached the wide arched doorway she was out of breath, and paused for a moment, hand on her belly. Her children waited patiently, the boys skipping back and forth in front of her.

"Nana," Laiqualassien finally said. "Are we going?"

"Yes, Laiqualassien." Mary said, her voice still breathless. "Just let me finish catching my breath."

Suddenly Laerwen gave a shriek and took off, tearing her hand from Mary's, and she ran on her little legs through the door and across the sunlit porch with its high vaulted ceiling. "Ada! Ada! Ada!"

Legolas stopped walking and crouched down with open arms, catching the little girl as she collided into him in a pile of giggles. "Hello, little one." He said, hugging her. Standing he held her in his arms, and looked up to catch Mary's eye. "Manen le, meld er?" he asked, walking towards her as Laerwen played with the tip of his ear, her face suddenly very focused. How (are) you, dear one? Reaching his wife's side Legolas gently kissed her lips, ignoring the groans and laughter of his children as he did so.

Mary laughed as she kissed him back. "Man. Tithen edo thúl." Good. Little out of breath.

Legolas smiled at her, and moving Laerwen to his one side he held out his arm for Mary to hold on to. "Anglenno-nin adar. A Gimli." he said as they walked. My father arrived. And Gimli.

Mary shook her head in amusement. "Le osánha nhon erui indyo!" You (would) think it be his first grandchild!

Legolas laughed. "Ho turútu ha." he said. "Ho nauth hoú ui gar-indyo." He cannot help it. He thought he (would) not ever have grandchildren.

Dark eyes turned to him, wide with excitement. "Daerada nasí?" Grandfather is here?

Legolas nodded. "É, Laerwen." Yes, Laerwen.

As they entered the sunlit hall there was a hearty roar of greeting, and then both boys were running across the floor with cries of "Daerada!" and "Gimli!" A moment later Laerwen was following, adding to the noise with excited shrieks of her own. Thranduil caught her and swung her above his head, his grey eyes dancing with merriment as she giggled. Gimli, meanwhile, had enveloped the two boys in a bear hug, their heads disappearing into his great brown beard. When finally he let them go they gasped for air dramatically, then ran to hug their grandfather. Laerwen, set down by now, stepped forward timidly, on finger in her mouth. She had always been a little shy around Gimli. The dwarf bent down on one knee, and smiled kindly at her.

"Look," he said, reaching into his pouch. As he withdrew his hand and held it up for her to see, something glittered. "Look what the dwarves have made for you, little one. A comb wrought of metal and set with jewels mined from their very own mountain, made to look like a flower of Ithilien!"

Laerwen's dark eyes grew wide with wonder, and a small smile curled and spread across her face. Eyes shining she took her finger from her mouth and reached out, grasping the comb. For a moment she held it in both hands, staring at it and how the gems sent the light sparkling and dancing. Looking up at him she grinned, and then throwing her arms wide she fell against him in a hug, burying her face in his beard. "Thank you!" she sing-songed.

Gimli chuckled, pleased, and returned the hug. "You are most welcome, little one."

"Legolas! Mary!" Thranduil greeted his son and daughter with a smile, setting down his grandsons and standing. Stepping forward he embraced Legolas. "It is good to see you!" Then he turned to Mary, and gently took her hands. "And you. How are you feeling?"

"I feel well, my lord." Mary said, smiling.

"And the little one?"

She laughed, setting one hand to her belly as it jumped from an inner kick. "Well and strong!"

"That is good to hear!" Thranduil smiled, and then he turned to his son. "Legolas; how is your work in Ithilien and Minas Tirith?"

"It is going well." Legolas said. "The dwarves have rebuilt the first and second level of the city, and we have helped to repair many other buildings and homes as well. But mostly the elves have worked in Osgiliath."

Thranduil nodded. "And the settlement here in Ithilian?"

"Our crops are doing well, as are the orchards." Legolas smiled, remembering the gift made to him on his wedding day that made the orchards possible. "In fact, tonight we shall enjoy the first of the season's cherries."

Gimli answered, his tone most appreciative. "That I look forward to, indeed. It has been a while since I have had anything other than apples!" Then: "Alright then, who is ready to do battle, my two young princelings? Indeed! I called your father a princeling, and still do, so it stands that I may call you the same. So draw out your wooden swords, lads, and hold up your shields. Now where did I put my ax?"

Mary sighed, looking out across the deepening landscape, the red flowers of the trees becoming purple in the twilight as the sky became as a dark blue pool, and the first of the stars opened their eyes to blink and look down upon the world. The breeze blew gently, caressing her skin and cooling the sweat and grime still upon it. She and Legolas had spent the day teaching their children– those who were old enough– the skills of the sword. Though they hoped there would never be cause to use such skills, they knew it would be folly to assume that it could never happen. Most of the last few weeks had been spent preparing and planting the gardens and fields, and today the large family finally had the chance to remain at home. The training had gone well, with the laughter of those enjoying one another's company and the seriousness of ones who understood that what they did was important and not to be taken lightly.

Galasrinion, Laiqualassien, and Laerwen helped to teach their younger brothers and sisters. There was Urúvion, his dark eyes snapping and fiery behind his golden hair, and then Maethoriel, facing her father with wooden sword held high, her fiery hair tied back in a long braid. Ithilwen and Dûrion practiced against their oldest brothers. Both were fair skinned and dark haired, with eyes of the purest blue. Ithilwen was not as serious as her brother, but she was as quiet and reserved. Thranduil often reflected that she and Dûrion looked much like his late queen and Legolas's mother, Laegeryn, though in character they seemed to take after their father and himself.

Laerwen waited upon the edge, her dark hair tied back and long below her shoulders. She watched her mother and Urúvion. He had learned well, though his impatience still sometimes got the better of him. As it did now. Growing tired of the long fight in which neither seemed to gain the higher ground he spun and raised his sword high only to have a wooden blade strike his ribs with its edge, and he closed his eyes with a sigh.

"Patience, Urúvion." Mary said, standing still and strong with her blade still against her son. "Never open yourself to your opponent like that. If this were a true battle that strike would have cleaved you in two."

Urúvion clenched his teeth, but he nodded, knowing she was right. As they stood, then, straight and with their swords lowered, he stuck the point of his wooden blade into the dirt, and though his face was composed his dark eyes burned with frustration at himself.

Mary noticed this, and smiled. "Do not be upset." She said, and in a moment of a mother's love she reached out and brushed a strand of his golden hair from his face, noticing how it gleamed in the sunlight. "Your skill has grown since the last time we fought. If it grows as much before we fight again I will be at your mercy."

Urúvion's eyes relaxed. "Thank you, Naneth." He said, smiling.

There was a cry to one side, and Dûrion shook his hand, then he turned and began to strike at the ground around Galasrinion's feet, yelling at him in elvish as his brother retreated, dancing to avoid the sword stabbing at his feet, and though it appeared to be a clash of tempers between brothers there was laughter and teasing in their voices and expressions. Ithilwen shook her head, the barest of a smile touching her lips while Laiqualassien looked on and laughed.

Maethoriel used the momentary distraction to start a sudden and vicious attack, and Legolas had to move quickly to avoid being overcome. Slowly she drove him back, and her blue eyes snapped with triumph. Then suddenly her father struck back, and as she moved to avoid the strike he knocked the sword from her hand and held the tip of his blade just under her chin. Both stood frozen for a moment, breathing heavily.

"You have learned well, Maethoriel." Legolas said, his chest rising as he breathed. He tipped his head. "Has Naneth been teaching you?"

A corner of her mouth twitched upward, the adolescent elven-maid straightening with pride. "Yes. And then Urúvion and I practice for an hour. Every day."

"Indeed?" Legolas smiled and dropped his sword. Reaching out with his other hand he took the back of her head and pulled her close, kissing the top of her fiery hair. "Well done."

As Maethoriel turned and went to fight with Urúvion, Legolas glanced to one side to see Mary eyeing him, a teasing light in her eye, challenging. With a small smile Legolas turned, and as they faced one another and began to circle there was the hushed voices of some of their children. As if they read each other's mind Legolas and Mary suddenly moved at the same time, coming together with a resounding crash of swords. Once they attacked there was no slowing down, just a flurry of movement. They spun and turned and advanced and retreated, striking and blocking, and it seemed almost like a dance rather than a fight as they moved together. They began to pick up momentum, until one could not tell who was attacking whom, or where one started and one began, and then with a final, resounding clash it stopped. Mary and Legolas stood face to face, their swords and arms crossed and locked together between them, breathing hard and heavy. Mary stared up at him, still with challenge, and with warmth and fire, noting how even with the single bead of sweat trickling down his temple from his hairline there was hardly a strand of hair out of place. She could feel the dampness of her shirt, could feel the wet perspiration on her face and the loose strands of dark hair plastered to the sides of her face and on her neck.

"Le eriol thír-sie útaith ap-auth." she said so that only he could hear. You alone (could) look so perfect after battle.

A smile flashed across his face, and his eyes burned as he looked at her. "Im lothron ped-sui limb an le, melnin." he said. I may say as much for you, my love. Then his lips caught hers. Mary closed her eyes, reveling in the warmth that filled her, and the taste of sweet spice and saltiness.

The barely audible laughter and whispers around them made them smile against each other, and then they pulled back to look once more into each other's eyes before turning to face the wide-eyed innocent looks of their children before at them. "We are done for today, my children." Legolas said. "Let us return to the house for supper."

Now Mary stood on the balcony of her and Legolas's room, watching the stars awaken one by one. Closing her eyes she stilled her mind, and quieted her thoughts, and slowly she began to hear– however faintly– the water of the Anduin splashing and running with crystalline music, and every once in a while the haunting and lonely call of a gull flying late and alone over the waters. That old and familiar stirring rose within her, drawing her towards the Sea, and her feet ached to move and to follow. The sound and the music and the yearning filled her until all she could hear was the water and the gull, beckoning and calling until nothing else mattered.

Then she opened her eyes, and all was silent, and there was only the breeze stirring through the purple flowers of the trees, and the stars blinking down at her with their soft jeweled eyes.

Turning she went in, and left her room, and walked barefoot down the halls to the rooms of her younger children, the ones who had watched as their elder siblings had sparred that day.

Faeron looked up from where he sat with his two younger sisters, crouched over a book of stories, the pages filled with detailed and rich pictures of bright colors. His brown hair was soft, and his blue eyes bright as he saw her. "Nana!"

Mary smiled. "Hello, Faeron." She said, bending down to pick up Anameleth, her youngest, as the little one raised short arms to her, head of black curls shining in the candlelight.

Eccaia stood up and followed Mary to a small bed, where her mother sat down and set her baby sister on her lap. "Nana," she asked, climbing onto the mattress in her white nightgown. She pushed her brown hair out of her face. "Do we have to go to bed?"

"Yes, Eccaia."

"But Faeron and me have started our own book, just like yours!" The little girl pointed as her older brother stood up and grabbed a pile of papers next to the book they'd been looking at, and carefully stepping over the stubs of colored chalk and sticks of charcoal, he proudly brought forward their masterpiece. Shifting Anameleth to one leg and arm Mary took one of the pieces of paper and looked at it, smiling as she saw the bright red dragon and the brave elf prince battling upon its surface.

"That is Locien," Faeron said, pointing upside down at the dragon. "And he is the brave king, Veryan."

"Locien was taking all of Veryan's gold, and he was eating all of the animals in the kingdom, so no one had anything to eat anymore!" Eccaia said, her eyes wide and excited. "And Locien fell in love with Melda, but Veryan wanted to marry her, but then Locien kidnapped her!"

"So Veryan takes his sword and goes to fight the dragon. See?"

"I do." Mary smiled as she looked at the many pages already drawn on, the story half-written in big and careful letters. No wonder they had been so quiet that day!

"We are becoming good storytellers, just like you, Nana!" Faeron said, standing tall, his eyes shining.

"Yes you are!" Mary handed him the papers. "Who don't you put these somewhere safe until tomorrow, and I will tell you a story before bed."

While her son scampered off to do just that Mary took Anameleth, and changed and cleaned her, and dressed her for sleep. As she did so she heard a low murmuring, and frowning slightly in concentration she listened closely. It was the voice of Legolas. He must have arrived while she was caring for Anameleth, and already he was telling a story to his young children, who were, no doubt, sitting enraptured and wide-eyed before him. Sure enough, when Mary finally returned, she found Legolas sitting with his children upon the floor, cross-legged, his hands moving in the air before him to illustrate the story he told. It was an old favorite, about an elven kingdom that was invaded by a band of dwarves, and how the elven king imprisoned them. Only they escaped, and fled the forest, and a dragon awoke, and the elven king discovered the dwarves' true purpose– to overthrow the dragon and reclaim their home. There was a terrible battle, and the dwarven king was killed; but the dragon was overcome, and all that the dragon had stolen was returned. Smiling, Mary sat down in a chair beside the three small beds, and covering herself and Anameleth with a small blanket for privacy, she settled herself back and to feed the baby girl, listening as Legolas continued with the story.

It was late before all of their children were finally abed. Legolas and Mary closed the last door, and sighed, the silence of the night broken only by the quiet chirping of crickets and the faint singing of night birds. "It gets later and later every year." Legolas whispered.

Mary smiled, slipping an arm around his waist. "At least we don't have to tuck the older ones in anymore."

Laughing quietly, Legolas pulled her close and hugged her gently, and they stood there for a moment, relaxing in the silence and the warmth of their embrace, and then they parted. As they walked through the halls they held hands, and talked quietly, and upon reaching the door to their room they were surprised to find Laerwen waiting for them.

As they approached she stepped forward, holding her fair hands and wringing them. There was a brightness in her eyes and a blush upon her cheek. "Adar, Naneth."

"Yes, Laerwen; what is it?" Mary asked.

Their oldest daughter looked at them with large, dark eyes, and she took a deep breath. "You remember when King Elessar and Arwen visited with their son, Eldarion, earlier this spring?"

Legolas nodded; Mary waited.

"Well," Laerwen licked her lips, glancing between them. "We spent time together, and– we have always had the love of friendship between us." She paused a moment, and there was silence. Mary waited patiently, and she knew without looking that Legolas was also waiting, his expression neutral– yet there would be a slight smile in his eyes. Finally Laerwen spoke. "He has asked for my hand!"

Joy and excitement rose up within Mary and spilled from her eyes and smile, yet at the same time she felt her heart clench within her, and tears pricked behind her lashes, hot as she blinked them back. Still she opened her arms and enfolded Laerwen in her embrace, and she clung to her daughter, feeling such pain as only a mother can when joy and grief threaten to tear her in two. Laerwen returned the hug, with as much strength and desperation. When they at last pulled apart there were tears in her eyes and sparkling upon her cheeks.

"I do not know what to say!" she said, looking back and forth between her parents. "I love him dearly, yet I dread to be separated from you when at last you cross the sea!" She stared at them in desperation. "What shall I do?"

Mary glanced at Legolas, and in his eyes as he looked at her she saw the same sense of being torn in two that she felt. The blue of his eyes was almost glowing in the dark, and there was a wordless question in his gaze. Mary thought for a moment, and realized that though an ache had filled her it was mostly from joy at the thought of her daughter and Aragorn's son in love and wed. A smile touched her lips, and she nodded. They looked again at their daughter, and Legolas, his gaze brimming with warmth and joy, smiled at her. "Laerwen," he said, reaching out a hand to hold her shoulder. "If you love him, that is enough. Wed him and be at peace."

Then Laerwen's dark eyes lit like the sun, and she laughed and threw her arms around him, and then she hugged Mary. "Oh Adar and Naneth! Thank you!"

It was the time of the Harvest. All the food had been gathered and stored, and the leaves had turned into brilliant bursts of gold and flame and red, and the air was crisp with the scent of apples and frost, and the sunlight had become paler and more clear in light of the coming Winter. All was dressed in wreaths of Autumn leaves and garlands and bundles of late Fall flowers, brilliant in color against the white stone of the city. Gathered from all over were dwarves and elves and men, and Minas Tirith was full of laughter and music and song.

Mary, dressed in the yellow dress of velvet she had worn so long ago, with the silver and gold-leafed circlet upon her head, was in the room with all of her daughters gathered about. There was much singing and talking and laughing, and some teasing, and then finally Mary sent them out. Eccaia skipped ahead of her older sisters, and Maethoriel carried little Anameleth, trailing behind Ithilwen. When at last the door was closed and quiet had settled within the room, Mary turned and smiled. Laerwen sat before her in a dress of the purest white, so bright it almost hurt to look upon her, and pearls were strewn about the neckline and the sleeves and her waist, so that she glowed with the light of the moon. Within her hair the moon was also woven, and it hung about her neck and upon her ears. Mary went to a chest and pulled from it shoes to match, and a mantle of white fur. Lifting her daughter's dark hair she draped the mantle about her shoulders, and secured it with a mithril broach in the likeness of a butterfly with outstretched wings.

Laerwen took a trembling breath. "Naneth, nle úthál n-an hervle Adar?" Laerwen asked as Mary lifted a butterfly crown with strands of pearls and sunlit jewels from its place on a small table. Mother, be you nervous before you wed Father?

A burst of laughter escaped Mary, and as she set the crown to her daughter's dark hair she shook her head, a look of fond remembrance upon her face. "Im nor-au." I ran away.

Laerwen turned around, her upturned face a mixture of shock and delight. "Baw!" No!

Mary nodded. "Yes." she said, smiling, and she sat down beside Laerwen and took the fair hands in her own, looking into Laerwen's dark eyes. "I was afraid our union would be frowned upon. At that time I was a stranger in this land, with not a thing to my name, not even the clothes I wore!"

Laerwen listened with rapt attention, smiling as she heard the familiar story, and listening again lest she miss a single detail.

"I believed I was nothing but a commoner in the eyes of Legolas and his people. So I left, intent on following the Anduin, to seek my fate and fortune. Your father followed me, but of course he said all the wrong things and we fought." Mary's eyes shone as she remembered. "Still, eventually he found his rare gift for speech again, and using the skill and grace of his words he convinced me to stay." Laerwen dropped her gaze then, but quickly raised it when her mother leaned forward, her voice hushed. "I have faced creatures of evil and battles of untold darkness, but never has my heard pounded so hard as it did the day we wed. It is a nervous and excited rush, a facing of a new and unknown future, a fire that burns through your veins and catches your breath– so much so that it is almost pain, and yet you pray that it never ends."

Laerwen took a steadying breath, and nodded. "So it is with me." She whispered.

Then Mary drew forth a necklace, and on it hung a brilliant yellow jewel surrounded by silver, and it formed the heart of a blooming summer flower. "For you, as your own." Mary said, her own Dawn and Twilight necklace hanging and burning bright upon her breast. Laerwen's eyes widened, and she could find no words as Mary set the Flower of Summer around her neck, where it shone bright and golden.

The ceremony was held in the courtyard beneath the White Tree, and Legolas and Mary stood there with Aragorn and Arwen. Eldarion gazed upon Laerwen with such love that his blue eyes seemed to shine with the light of the sun itself, and Mary smiled, seeing how he had grown into a strong and able young man, wise and gentle and true. And as Laerwen gazed upon him with love and joy, Mary felt tears rise in her eyes and spill to her cheeks. "Valar nas nin." She whispered, holding tightly within her hand the broach with the sapphire jewel which she was to give to Eldarion, as was the custom. Valar be with me.

For many days there was feasting and celebration. Gimli and the dwarves with him had brought many fine gifts made within their mountain, and Thranduil, beaming with pride, bestowed more than his share upon his granddaughter and Aragorn's son. What Mary and Legolas gave to Laerwen and Eldarion no one knew, for it was done in private, and there was laughter and tears.

As the dancing and singing continued, Mary and Legolas took a moment to slip away quietly together, and they walked to the edge of the courtyard to the wall, where they looked down upon the city and across to the Anduin, a silver and sparkling ribbon heading towards the sea in the moonlight. She leaned against the wall.

"Veduí, Héri Mary." Greetings, Lady Mary.

"Veduí, Haryon Legolas." Greetings, Prince Legolas.

"A manen ceri-le bein hi dú?" And how do you fair this night?

"Man. A le?" Good. And you?

"Man." He answered, leaning his hands against the wall. He breathed deeply of the chill night air. "Lá morning man." Good. More than good.

Mary grinned and ducked her head. Legolas smiled, his blue eyes sparkling even as he kept his gaze firmly forward. "Has it really been eighty years since our own wedding?"

Mary looked up, her face composed to some extent, laughter still in her eyes. "It is hard to believe, isn't it?"

"Valar nas mín; they are only sixty."

Mary looked at him with a roll of her eyes. "I was only twenty-two, Lord nelhost tád meneg!"

Legolas raised his chin. "It is fruitless to try and make an elf feel old." He said, and Mary laughed at him. Then his eyes twinkled and the corner of his mouth curved. "Besides, you were– mature, for your age."

Mary shook her head. "Mana ceri-im ceri-as le?" What do I do with you?

Aragorn approached them. His hair was quickly turning silver, trying to catch up with his beard, and his face was older and more weathered than it had been, lines creasing the skin around his eyes and mouth. But his eyes were still bright, and they glowed as he smiled upon them. "My friends." He said, and embraced Legolas, and then Mary. "This is a blessed time."

Legolas smiled, clasping the aging king's strong shoulder. "Eldarion has grown into a fine man." He said. "He takes after his father."

"Ah!" Aragorn waved his hand. "He takes after his mother, Legolas. Thank the Valar." He smiled. "And Laerwen takes after her mother! There is a God…" he laughed, his voice trailing off. "She has grown into a wondrous lady."

Legolas chuckled, and Mary laughed. "You have grown less grave in your old age, my friend." Legolas said.

"Indeed." Aragorn said, and his grey eyes twinkled. "There is little reason to be grave anymore these long years." He glanced behind. "I see that Anameleth had grown much this past year." He turned his eyes to Legolas, a look of serious expectation on his face. "Shall we be expecting any news in the coming days? If my calculations have not been lost to me, I believe it is about that time again?"

Mary laughed, even more so when she saw a touch of pink enter her husband's face. "You must admit that no elf in the history of Middle Earth has ever had so many children before." She pointed out.

Aragorn laughed, and clasped Legolas's shoulder even as the tall elf shook his head and said something about being surrounded by children even now.

When the king left them to return to the celebration, Mary turned to Legolas and looked up at him with shining eyes as luminous as the moon. "You know, there is some truth in what he said, Legolas." She said, taking his hands in hers.

"Indeed?" Legolas smiled down at her. "About what in particular?"

Rising to her toes, Mary brushed her cheek against his, and her breath was warm against his ear as she whispered. A moment later Legolas straightened, staring at her. Then he smiled, and it was like the sun breaking over the horizon at dawn, and taking her face in his hands he kissed her.

"We shall have to start thinking of names." He whispered.

It was a cold day. The sun was pale and thin as it shone down weakly upon the world, and the wind blew without life or care, filled with a chill that bit through to the very bone. The gathering was dark and silent, eyes cast down. Legolas stood as still as a statue, and appeared to have been carved from marble as he stared ahead to the long bed of stone, draped with a black cloth. Upon it laid an old man stately and regal, his hands laid upon his chest, his brow smooth and wise, his face gentle and relaxed as though in sleep. He was a noble man, a king of men, and upon his breast he wore a green jewel. Before the bed stood Arwen, clad all in black, with a veil over her face. She was still as fair and unchanged as the day she had wed, yet there was no light now in her eyes, and no merriment or laughter upon her lips, and she stood silent and grave as a statue that keeps its cold vigil over a tomb.

There also was Gimli, old and wrinkled now, with his hair more white than brown, and his youthful, snapping eyes were unblinking as they stared before him. At his side stood Eldarion and Laerwen, and with them their son and daughter.

At Legolas's other side, surrounded by their fourteen children, was Mary. She stood straight and unmoving, tears spilling from her eyes like crystal rivers down her cheeks. Her face was smooth and fair still, her body strong, with only small lines of laughter at the corner of her eyes to reveal her age. Except that her hair, blowing long and pure in the wind, had gone completely white. Her heart broke within her at the lifelessness in the elven queen's eyes, and she wished that there were some small thing she could do to offer comfort.

Legolas was quiet that night. He sat before the fire in their room with his legs stretched before him, staring into the flames, and the light and laughter of his face was no longer there. All that was left was a marble mask of nothing. Mary approached him, dressed in nothing but her thin white nightdress, her feet bare upon the floor. Her pure white hair hung down her back and spread over her bare shoulders, gleaming in the firelight. Settling to the floor before him she looked up, her dark eyes searching and resigned. "You wish to leave these shores." She said, and her quiet voice seemed loud in the silence.

Legolas did not move. "Because of Aragorn I stayed behind when even my father left for the Sea. Now that he has gone, the longing in my heart is almost unbearable."

Mary nodded. "Then build your ship, Legolas."

He sighed, and then moved for the first time, turning to glance in the direction of the neighboring room in which Gimli slept. "I would, but for the fear that if I leave now, it would be to abandon Gimli to die alone, with no friend by his side."

She rose to her knees, and took his hands in hers, and her eyes were dark and unblinking. "Take him with you." She said, and her voice was earnest, her gaze open.

Legolas looked at her, and saw in her eyes the offered hope and the assurance, the plea that he trust her once more, and somehow, though he had not thought it possible, he felt his heart lighten and the grief within him ease a little, and the ember in his chest sparked and then grew a little warm, fighting back the cold that had surrounded him. A smile touched his lips, and he reached out with one hand and held her face, tangling his fingers in her smooth hair. "Le nin ambir." He whispered. You (are) my hope.

She smiled, tipping her cheek into his hand, and when she opened her eyes they were glowing with warmth and love. "Le nin cuil." You (are) my life.

Leaning forward he caught her face in his hands, and pressing his lips to hers he kissed her. He had meant it to be gentle, but the moment her lips touched his the ember in his chest flared up with burning, rolling heat, and the kiss became desperate and intense, filled with a hunger and a fire that could not be quenched. He felt her warmth match his, and her fingers reached up to tangle themselves in his golden hair, and Legolas groaned, pulling her to him. As he stopped the kiss long enough to press his lips to her face and her brow, she whispered to him in elvish, and her words filled him with warmth and healed his heart. "Im mel-le." He whispered. "As nin cuil." I love you. With my life.

The next months were spent building a boat. Legolas worked on it with his sons: Galasrinion, Laiqualassien, Urúvion, Dûrion, Faeron, Nestarion, and Feredir. Maethoriel, Ithilwen, Eccaia, Anameleth, Faelwen, and Saerwen– though these last two were still very, very young– helped Mary prepare for the journey by gathering food and water, and packing warm clothes, blankets, bedding, lanterns, and then all things precious to them. They had not been working long before Gimli stomped down from the great house, through the forests, and to the shore, carrying his many tools and ax, his hair tied back in a great white braid and his sleeves rolled up. "I am not yet so old," he declared. "That I cannot help to build a ship. Step aside, now, young princelings– yes, even you, Legolas– and let a master go to work."

Indeed, he was still as strong as an ox, and his mind was as sharp as ever. With his company there was soon affectionate bickering and humorous if heated debates, and Legolas smiled. "Thank you." He said, working beside the dwarf as they shaped a long plank of wood.

Gimli glanced at him with bright, dark eyes full of laughter, and he nodded.

As the day drew near to their departure, Mary wandered the empty halls and rooms of her home, gazing around her as the memories filled her mind and her waking eyes. She heard the laughter of little children, and the roars of Gimli, and the voices of Thranduil and Legolas talking together, and she saw herself in the early morning light, running, laughing, holding in her hand Legolas's shirt, knowing she could not run fast enough to escape him and trying to anyway. Gradually she found herself descending a flight of stairs, and at the bottom it opened up into her washroom, with the birdhead fountain high in the wall still with water pouring pure and clear from it like a waterfall, and the pool, inlaid carefully with specially cut stone. As she ran her hand along the wall, memorizing every detail, she leaned out, extending her hand, and allowed the warm water to cascade over her hand and through her fingers, and tears filled her eyes.

"Do not weep, fair Mary." A rough voice said from the stairs. "I shall build you another one; one even grander than this."

She looked up, and smiled through her tears at the aged dwarf. "I know." She said. "But I shall miss this one."

He nodded, and gazed at her softly. "The ship is ready." He said quietly. "All is aboard. We can leave tomorrow."

Mary looked away, and nodded.

"Laerwen is here."

Her eyes snapped to his, and then she ran to the stairs and up and past him, taking the steps two at a time. Through the halls she sped, until she reached the great hall with its long table and high window. Laerwen was there, with Eldarion and their two children. She turned as Mary burst through the door, and she ran to her, tears upon her face as they embraced.

"Oh, Naneth." she whispered, clutching her mother tightly as though afraid she would disappear if let loose. "This is the day I have dreaded for many a year!"

Mary shut her eyes, begging the Valar for strength as tears rose up, hot and heavy in her eyes. "Laerwen." She said. "We shall be parted only for a little while. It won't be forever."

Her daughter's arms tightened around her. "But it will feel as such!" Laerwen whispered, and her voice was broken.

The final meeting between Laerwen and Legolas and Mary was hard and bitter, and there were many tears and embraces and words of affection and endearment. The night was spent, then, as a family, with all gathered together, sometimes dozing where they sat, but mostly talking together and basking in the company of one and all.

The morning dawned grey and cold, with a high wind, and gulls wheeled overhead by the dozens, calling out with their strange, haunting cries. As the ship left the shore Laerwen stood, with her dark hair blowing about her face and her cloak about her legs. Eldarion stood behind, and encircled her with his arms. Mary and Legolas stood and gazed after as they drew further and further away until their daughter had become a speck on the shoreline, and then the shore had swallowed her up.

At first there was grief, for the pain of parting with their loved one and leaving their home was great, but soon it was replaced with a quiet joy, subtle at first, and then stronger the further they journeyed. The longing was awakened full force within them, and it sang with relief and joy as they finally answered its call. About them the Sea was a liquid silver, and the waves sent up droplets of crystal that sparkled and glittered in the pale grey light.

It had been two weeks. Mary awoke to a change in the wind. For so long now it had been sharp and cold to match the lifeless grey of sea and sky, but now there was a hint of warmth to it, and the salty smell of ocean and fish and seaweed. Pushing back the blankets she rose to her feet, and padded barefoot out onto the deck, clad only in her thin white nightdress, her arms bare and her white hair falling and shining down her back in a long braid. As she stepped out onto the deck warm, golden sunlight fell upon her, filling her with its light and heat. Closing her eyes Mary spread her arms and lifted her hands, soaking in the life-giving rays and basking in its brilliance. Then she looked around, and the sea around them was blue, the waves tipped with white sparkling foam.

"Legolas!" She called, though she was careful to keep her voice down. "Ettule-sí! Glín!" Come here! Look (quickly)!

A moment later he appeared at her side, blinking away the remains of sleep as he rubbed at his eye, and then he looked around in amazement, pushing golden hair from his face. "Valar!" he exclaimed quietly. "E anor!" Valar! The sun!

Over the next few weeks the sun shone continually during the day, while at night a gentle rain would fall. The further west they traveled, the brighter and more beautiful the sun became, and the water grew bluer and bluer and bluer until it was more rich and deep and brilliant than any blue they had ever seen, and then it grew bluer still, and mottled emerald would rise from its depths to dapple the surface. The air became fresh, and the salt became mixed with a hint of sweetness, and it refreshed them much as the fragrance of the athelas plant. Gimli would remain on the deck for the entirety of the day, basking in the rich and powerful and warm sunlight, and he would smoke his pipe and be silent for hours. Also he would spar with the many young elven lads on board, and often he would spar with Legolas, and wrestle with him, or he would play a game of chess or play at riddles, or else he would sit before an enraptured audience and tell stories and tales, his gruff, deep voice weaving words together like an expert storyteller from the far desert east. His eyes brightened, and he grew stronger, and his skin brown. Mary would spar with Legolas, or her children, but she often tended to her youngest children, or played upon her violin, or read from the books they had brought– sometimes aloud, and sometimes to herself. One of these was a cherished treasure, its worn pages carefully sewn together with leather cord, its drawings colored with chalk, its painstakingly printed words telling the story of the dragon Locien and the elven king, Veryan, who loved the maiden Melda.

As time wore on fish began to appear, riding just below the surface like bright jewels of magnificent length and shape, their fins spread out from their body like wings. Then suddenly they would leap into the air many, many feet, spraying the deck and its inhabitants with crystal droplets that were warm on the skin, and then they would crash back into the sea with a resounding slap. These fish were blue and red orange and green, and some were multi colored, and some were golden, and some were the color of beaten copper, and some were like streaks of liquid silver skimming through just under the surface. They traveled on for several more weeks, and then a great fish arrived, the king of all fish. He had a great sword upon his snout, and his large eyes watched them from the water with curious scrutiny. He was large, at least twenty-two feet long, and the fin upon his back stood up like a silver sail, or a fan. He was all of the palest of lavenders, but for the thick stripe running down the center of his back, and the smaller stripes going down from it along his sides– those were of the deepest purple. He followed them, swimming alongside their ship for seven days without pause, matching their speed without tiring, watching them with his great golden eye. Yet never did he break the water. Then, on the eighth day, he suddenly disappeared from their view, diving down deep into the shadowed darkness of the ocean's depths. As they gazed over the side, wondering why he had gone, suddenly the water exploded beneath them in showers of crystal and stinging spray and sweet saltiness and thunder, and he rose into the air, water streaming in endless falls from his back and sides. Up, up he rose, high into the air, proud and magnificent and gleaming in the sun, high above their heads in a great arc, and then he crashed back down again, slicing through the surface with his sword, and he was gone.

"I wonder what that was for." Gimli said, his eyes wide with wonder.

Then they realized that the sound of thunder had not gone. In fact, it was growing louder. Galasrinion suddenly gave a cry, and pointed, and they all turned to see before the ship what was like a great breaker over a reef, only it spilled over into nothing, the water churning and rolling so that it was like it was boiling, all white with foam and froth, and there was a great wind roaring up from the depths and into the sky where the clouds swirled and crashed into one another, and spun to escape only to be caught up by the wind and swirled yet again. Rain fell in torrents, and lightning crashed and thunder rolled, yet there was sky of the purest blue, and the sun shone so brightly it hurt their eyes to look. And within it all was a deep, sonorous music, as though all the roars and crashing and rolling was to a drumbeat that only nature could hear, and yet it caught on the hearts of the elven children and of Legolas and Mary, calling to them, and they knew it called them home.

"This is it." Legolas whispered. "The end of all things."

"We shall reach it in less than three minutes." Gimli said, staring wide-eyed into the rolling and churning chasm of water.

Mary stared, feeling her heart rise within her in a leap of triumphant joy, the sound of the ocean and the song of nature filling her eyes and her ears, and before them the great lavender fish leapt yet again, glinting in the light, as though encouraging them on. Then suddenly a knife stabbed through Mary's heart.

She was not of elven blood.

What if she were not allowed to pass?

Her eyes turned to Legolas at the same time as his turned to her, and she saw in the blue depths the same sudden realization and fear. They came together, and she threw her arms around his neck, and felt his arms encircle her and hold her close to his hard and warm body. She felt his face press against hers and into her hair, and she heard his desperate words of love and promise, all the things one would want to say before it was too late and so often did not– they fell in elvish from his lips to her ears so fast that they broke and sometimes stumbled, and she felt a sob in her chest and tears in her eyes as she responded in like manner. She had not thought of this– she had forgotten, in her years of happiness, that for her the journey was uncertain, and now– without warning or time to prepare– to be suddenly faced with the possibility of losing Legolas, was more than she could bear. Mary clung to him, face pressed to his neck, eyes wide with terror as the thundering and roaring drew closer, tears streaming down her cheeks. She felt the ship tip beneath them. She felt the spray of the churning waters as they began to fall. She felt Legolas's arms tighten around her, and she cried out his name as she was swallowed up in oblivion…

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